Visible streaking on the walls of Pottsgrove High School attest to failure of some of its masonry components. The school board is contemplating an overhaul of the building. It started Tuesday with only its air conditioning units.
POTTSTOWN PA – It could take as few as two or as many as five years to renovate and make much-needed repairs to Pottsgrove High School, the district Board of School Directors learned Tuesday (Oct. 23, 2012) … depending on how much money its members want to spend and how they’d like to spread out the payments. No matter the time frame, though, they were urged to act quickly on one repair that can’t wait: replacement of two air conditioning chillers.
Directors embraced the advice, and authorized the administration to start writing specifications that would enable bidding on the equipment by year’s end.
After months of estimates and considerations – the board initially agreed to look at a high school overhaul back in March (2012) – Director of Facilities and Physical Plants Michael Katzenmoyer officially told directors most of what they already knew: it will cost about $9 million to do all that likely needs doing to fix the high school.
Several of its mechanical and structural systems are failing. The roof needs extensive work. The building’s masonry components – concrete walls, brick veneers, limestone facade – “have reached the end of their lifespan” and could begin to leak in bad weather, Katzenmoyer said. The most pressing problems are the twin chillers, so old that only a foreign manufacturer can create expensive custom parts to patch them up.
Tackling the basics in- and outside the Kauffman Road building, which was last renovated 21 years ago, also presents an opportunity to do more for the future, Business Administrator David Nester added.
High school educators would like to upgrade the school’s former technology education wing for use as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning center. Those interested in high school security are advocating installation of a secure entrance vestibule. The auditorium could use new seats; the gym, new bleachers. The entire building needs more storage space.
“There are other considerations here if we’d like to look at a more comprehensive program,” Nester noted.
Board members said they wanted to think that over. They were keenly interested, however, in how much could be accomplished on a compact schedule of no more than two or three years. Two would be better, Katzenmoyer said, because it would reduce student and classroom disruptions, and ensure a concerted effort from contractors.
Money plays a role in the decision too. The district’s capital reserve budget currently contains about $7 million; not enough to do all the work described, Nester reported. By the end of 2016, however, the district will have freed up about $1.7 million annually in service costs on existing debt that could then be used to pay for any borrowing required for the proposed renovations.
For now, the sole decision due from the board – a thumbs-up on the air conditioning – has already been made. A district engineering representative said that would allow work to begin this winter, with a target completion date of April 15, just in time for the onset of warmer weather.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Oct. 23 meeting):